@ Hairy Woman - thanks so much for reading! Like the other forum I post on, I like to take the time to address comments point by point
While I know this isn't the writing-editing forum, I find feedback like this exponentially helpful, whether its good or bad.1) You didn't wait around to get into the action - it all happened immediately!
I myself have an attention span the size of a gnat. I figure if I wouldn't have the patience to sit there and read a bunch of lines about how the trees looked or the exact, paragraph-long description of someone's eye color, why would I expect others to? 2) The one thing I would say is look out for your use of adjectives: there is 'ringing', 'clang' and 'rang' in the first sentence and it slows the pace down with what is essentially the same sound. 'Rune bathed' was another description which stood out to me, as I associate 'bathed' with water and not with clothing: what about 'cluttered/clustered' or 'embellished'?
This is why I need beta readers
I changed the first sentence to: "The ringing sound of hammer to blade carried in the hot, dusty air." to avoid any redundancy with sounds.
As for the second point, I changed it to: "rune-marked"3) I love the way that Brun is affected by the magic and runes - almost a drunkenness. Perhaps you could further this by making him put up more of a fight (or at least trying to) to add greater urgency?
I'm going to put in some clarification as to why he wouldn't do so. There are good reasons for it, and while I know them, the reader doesn't and I can sometimes forget that. 4) I think you should also have the miners fleeing and mention it as they do so, instead of mentioning that they have already gone after the 'spirit' has formed a physical body.
. I'll go back and repost the first chapter as an edit of my first post. In the meantime, here's chapter 2
The air pricked the strange being’s tingling skin. She moved a pale hand to her painted eyes as the low-hanging sun still proved bright in her blood-colored vision. The sounds and smells of the forest slowly entered the realm of consciousness, as swift shadows of birds peppered the small gap between the forest and the clearing in front of the mine’s main entrance. The distant shouts of fear-filled mortal men barely registered among the animals’ docile chatter.
When her eyes no longer winced in the sunlight, they took in the skinny trees and yellowing, late-summer leaves. She walked towards one of the puny, silent creatures and placed her palm on its cool bark.
The red being’s eyes narrowed for a moment, as crimson vision seemed to command the life force within the sapling to stream into her. The small, pale-green beads obeyed, falling in line and traveling through her optical gates. As the tiny beads flowed into the being, images of their creation began pouring into her mind. The young tree was spawned, according to the images, from a seed rather than the long, spindled fingers of forest creatures. The images caused a small smile to come to her dark lips as she closed her eyes and broke the connection.
“Interesting,” the red being muttered with a hissing, feminine voice. As she progressed deep into the yellow-green expanse, the red being felt a hint of familiar energy on the wind. The trees seemed to get larger and more gnarled the further she traveled from the human-hewn land. A sweet smell of honey and flowery perfume came to her senses, causing her neutral expression to turn fiercely sour. Her perceptive eyes scanned the foliage that grew lush beneath thick, green-leaved trees.
With a snarl, she ripped one of the thick fronds from its roots. A golden dust, almost like an echo of the plant, was left in the wake of her claw-like grip. She did not pull the energy from the frond, as its wanton gold after-glow coated her hand like celestial pollen. She felt an itchy sensation come to her hand and she cursed, throwing the frond to the ground. The golden energy that coated the frond seemed the same color as the lurid energy that bound the red being to her crystal prison in her sight.
“Damn woodfey,” she sighed and began rubbing the golden, itchy energy from her skin. She stomped her heel on the magically-grown frond, grinding it into the ground. When she removed her boot, soot and ash coated the glowing grass where the frond once was. She turned her vision to the thick canopy, but found no woven branches, fairy-lights, or any other evidence that the forest fey dwelled nearby.
But her eyes did not stop their scanning at the surface. She reached out and touched one of the gnarled, moss-covered trees and turned her gaze to the leaves above. What would have been seen as a simple tree to the humans appeared a stream of pure life force in her eyes. The streams of beaded light traveled through the physical forms like blood without anything to impede it.
The red being saw the occasional shadow or dark spot in her sight, far too small to be the giant tree-builders known to her memory as ‘woodfey.’ Though their branch-like limbs and long, insect-like wings blended with the scenery all too well in the physical perception, if they lingered in the mass of energy, they would be as plain as a clear-sky sun. Finding none such shadows among the squirrels, birds, and occasional lizard, the red being removed her grip and brought her attention back to the world of mortals.
She could feel a heaviness in her chest as the celestial pollen that coated the trees like a warm cloak began permeating her form. The energy that bound her to reality came from mortals, and with each step, it seemed her body mimicked human intolerance to the foreign energy. She began to falter, occasionally tripping over an exposed root or rock in her path finding no comfort in the sturdy trees.
She tripped over one large, smooth stone and fell face forward, landing face first in the dirty path. She wiped what felt like jellied-mud from her nose and upper lip as yellow liquid began to fall from her inflamed nostrils. She turned with wincing, tear-filled eyes as the golden energy around her seemed to play on the air. It was then she heard a deep whisper penetrate the stagnant air. She felt herself grow cold as a small shiver ran through her terror-made body. She looked to the black stone that caused her fall and heard its desperate call.
She slowly shifted, careful not to aggravate the growing pain her humming head, and turned her sight to the object. As her fingers ran along the smooth, exposed stone the fearing shiver returned. She did her best to calm the pulsing inner core within her chest as the red spirit’s perceptive eyes began to unweave the physical layer of the object. She could see something within that was not born from dirt or stone. The fragment called to her in the language of its herd, unknown to mortals, but spoken by those whose hearing went beyond sound.
“What are you?” her mind articulated in the language of the fragment. It screamed its reply: “Stuck!” A pulse of pain ran through her aching mind as she wiped more liquid from her nose.
“Calm down,” the red spirit soothed as best as its hissing voice could muster, “What do you call yourself?” The fragment bleated in fear for a moment as it gave a shaking reply.
“R-Rock climber. Two legs call me ‘Marimar’ Help! Pain! Run!” it cried as the red spirit began to stroke the black-stone shell. She had heard the word long before she came to be trapped within the crystal on the mouths of her own children. It was their name for the majestic “mountain horses,” creatures with cleft hooves, strong backs, tall horns, and the ability to scale even the steepest inclines the land could provide. The red spirit softly smiled as she began to dig the rest of the skull-sized stone out of the ground.
“I couldn’t have been in that crystal THAT long. How in the world did one of your bones end up in a rock?” The spirit shook her head, as if expecting some creature to ask her the same question.
“The yellow one. The yellow one…” the Marimar fearfully whispered as it was fully unearthed. The red spirit’s brow furrowed as her angry red eyes flashed for a moment with emotion.
“Well, that makes two of us. Give me a moment to--” she paused for a moment to sniff and wipe her nose with the back of her sleeve, “get myself together,” she sighed. Though she did not take in air, she steadied her humming inner core in a similar, meditative stance that a human wise-one would take. Though she still suffered in the yellow-bathed air, her core steadied and her inner stars began to pulse.
Her pale hands glowed as the stone in her grasp began to unravel like a broken tapestry. Threads of energy were pulled away in the thousands as the speaking fragment touched the air. The red spirit grasped the fragment as images of the tiny object’s former grandeur came into her mind. The images revealed a powerful animal, a sire of many healthy foals, defender of his heard and an unrelenting slayer of enemies.
“Will you aid me, Marimar? I need to find a river, a clean river. Will you carry me there, if I spend my energy weaving you a new form?” the spirit asked with humility in her mental voice. The fragment went silent in her mind, but the red spirit could perceive a resounding excitement and glee radiating from its dry fragment.
“I was traveling to such a place with my kin when the yellow one came. Make it so I can feel cool stones beneath my hooves again, taste onion grass and pine needles again, and I will carry you to the top of the mountain, if you asked it!” the fragment spoke. The red spirit nodded, the strange eye-pattern on her forehead alight with a star’s brightness, as she began her work.
She pulled light-thread from beyond her mortal-made form and worked the air around the fragment. Soon, what was once a fragment wove into a thick, proud-horned skull. Bone by rocky bone, the red spirit rebuilt the creature the best her flawed hands could weave. Her inner core began to sputter as she began working on the lean muscle, not made from flesh, but rather molten stone. Its new skin matched the black mountaintops it once climbed; small cracks at the joints and heated stony skin allowed it to move unhindered.
When the red spirit was done, she sunk to her side, barely able to move. The reborn mountain horse scraped the soil with its rocky hoof. Though made of stone and fire, it could feel the cool earth below. It gleefully bleated as the smell of grass and leaves caused a hunger to perk in his belly. The creature let out a bleating roar of delight before tending to his firebird-masked rescuer. The mountain horse nudged the red spirit, tickling her skin with its smooth-stone mouth.
“Are you well, fire bird?” the mountain horse asked through the language of the mind-bond. The red spirit looked to her form for a moment, with tired, unsure look.
“I am not a fire bird,” she smiled with a small laugh, “I only resemble one.”
“What can I call you then?” the mountain horse asked, allowing the red being to grasp its strong neck and helped her to her feet.
“Before I was imprisoned, I was called ‘Orifiel,’ or child of the balance-Hewn; but in my culture, someone in my condition would be called ‘Oren,’ child of the fear-Hewn. You can call me that, if you want. It would be more accurate now,” the red being, self-named ‘Oren,’ shrugged as she moved to mount the mountain horse. The mountain horse smacked its lips for a moment as it lifted its tall-horned head to sniff the summer air.
“What is ‘Hewn?’” the Marimar asked.
“’Hewn’ means ‘cut from a greater thing.’ The Hewn are great spirits cut from the greatest spirit…it’s sort of complicated,” Oren smiled as her mind struggled to find terms the simple animal could understand. The Marimar gave a half-understood snort.
“Indeed…I was called ‘Wolfslayer’ when I still wore fur,” the transformed Marimar informed as he gratefully carried Oren further down the path towards where his instincts and memories guided him.
“An honorable name, from what I understand of your kind…speaking of, why did Bellil—err, ‘the yellow one’ slaughter your herd? And why was yours the only bone fragment in my path?” Oren asked as she stifled a sneeze. Wolfslayer shook his head with a shiver.
“I do not know what motivates beautiful evil, my lady. When she and her shining children came, they did not merely slice or cut. They broke us into many, many pieces and scattered our bones. Who knows where my kin or the rest of me remains,” Wolfslayer snorted with a low grumble. “What about you, Oren?”
“It’s a long story.” Oren closed her eyes with a sigh as a low-hanging branch brushed against her wild, red hair. She shivered at the pine’s prickling touch, but the needles left nothing but a pleasant scent on her foggy head.
“Is the story really so long, or do you simply not wish to tell me?” Wolfslayer asked as he paused to gain his bearings. His long, black ears perked to the trickling sound of slow-flowing water before moving again. Oren smiled with a quiet laugh.
“How lucky am I to make such wise ac-ac--” Oren inhaled deeply before a great sneeze erupted from within. “Ah, acquaintances?” She sniffled.
“You are luckier to meet one with an animal’s senses. The clean river is close. There will be no yellow poison there, good lady,” Wolfslayer affirmed.
“Thank the Hewn for that.” Oren closed her eyes and bowed at the spoken word for those who dwelled in her heart as gods. A sudden sinking in her stomach coupled with a chill in her chest urged her not to ask the next question forming in her mind. But the words found their way onto the air and to Wolfslayer’s deft ears. “What happened to the other two-legs? At least the humans seem to have survived…did the others?” Oren asked with a slight shaking in her voice. Wolfslayer grumbled as he smacked his stony lips.
“That, I do not know. My old eyes saw many horrors, but I do not know what became of the other two-legs. The yellow one’s children still breathe, of course,” Wolfslayer growled as he kicked a rock in his path. The small stone traveled down a small hill just in front of them and landed with a low, splashing plunk.
The pair peered down the rocky slope to see a muddy trickle for a river below. The remnants of freshly decaying plants produced a putrid odor that pierced Oren’s deluged sense of smell. Wolfslayer nimbly trod down the smooth-stoned slope as if it were nothing more than level ground as his ashy hooves met the moistened stream.
Oren saw a green haze of river life flow around them as the murky water slowly went along its usual path. Wolfslayer lowered his head to taste the frothy water and recoiled. The taste of river-moss and algae assaulted his burning mouth as he shook the taste from his ashy tongue.
“Its alive, it will do.” Oren sighed with a hint of relief in her voice as she moved to half- fall from her companion’s back and into the shallow river. The running water, touched only by the natural state of the world, felt like a soothing blanket as the yellow energy was cleansed from her ailing form. As she scooped the water in her pale hands and threw it above her fire-mane head, Oren’s mortal features were began to return to a more healthy state as her nose and chest began to clear.
Her black clothing hung drenched and covered in river refuse as she waded through the knee-deep water toward the opposite shore. Wolfslayer followed, sniffing the air as a familiar, uplifting scent came through the smell of mossy riverwater. His hooves moved a little faster, traveling past his companion and to the underbrush near the treeline.
“Onion grass!” he spoke with a gleeful laugh as he took a great mouthful and began to indulge. He happily hummed through his chewing, causing Oren to smile and shake her head.
“The simple things I suppose…” Oren chuckled as she held her arms out to let the cleaning water stream back to the ground. She shook her arms for a moment before taking off her heavy black cloak and wringing it out. Her thick tunic followed, revealing a pale but freckle-kissed form. She studied the small, foreign spots, reasoning that they came with her mortal donation of energy. Her long, red locks maintained her modesty as she took off her boots, leaving her soaked pants on.
She folded the garments and placed them on a dryer patch of stone as she turned her attention to the forest from which she and her companion escaped. Her brow furrowed at the sight of the yellow mist that seemed to cover the landscape in a fanciful fog. She closed her eyes and shook her head.
“This isn’t our world anymore, is it?”
“Hmm?” Wolfslayer’s ears perked for a moment before he managed to tear his attention away from the green feast and walk back towards the rank riverbank. He moved his muzzle to her left shoulder, allowing her to move a hand to gently stoke his stony skin.
“The yellow one mentioned something before she helped put me in my prison. She said I’d done enough damage, and she’d see to it things were put back on course,” Oren’s vision seemed to pierce the landscape as images of those dreadful moments played in front of her vision as if they were occurring at the riverbank. Wolfslayer’s eyes held no understanding at the statement, but his lips held no questions at that moment. “When I was Orifiel, I favored your kind, and now they are broken and scattered. I don’t want to imagine what became of my children.”
“Best not to, yes,” Wolfslayer flinched as if his own memories reared to strike his renewed mind. Oren’s light fingers on his muzzle seemed to brush away the memories horrible carnage and searing pain.
As night began to fall on the pair, the sounds of crickets’ songs softly came like a lullaby on irritated senses. Oren gathered as many dry, fallen branches as were available near the slow but amply wet river, and used her weaving talents to create a campfire.
Despite the crackling light and the silvery full moon’s unclouded sight, Oren and Wolfslayer did not see the sets of mortal eyes gazing upon their unnatural forms. They did not hear the silent footsteps that crept close from beyond the treeline. They could not smell anything other than a deer’s musk or a boar’s rank odor. Just as Oren lay down to admire the star-lit darkness, the shadows that lurked in the living forest moved to strike.